In the Eyes of the Rangers, an Easy Target

Let's say you had to design a team to beat the 2011 Red Sox in a short series. Obviously you'd want some solid southpaw starters, to punish the team for fielding so many lefthanded batters (or force them to play more marginal righties like Darnell MacDonald). You should have a strong bullpen, with a young flamethrowing closer, to shut the door. You'd definitely need a top four offense, maybe one fresh off a World Series win. And it certainly wouldn't hurt if the Sox starters and relievers left a bunch of pitches over the heart of the plate to your sluggers. Throw in home-field advantage and some luck, and you have an easy three game sweep.

If any of this sounds familiar, it's because you just watched the disappointing weekend series against Texas. The beating Texas delivered was almost scripted, from balls glancing off gloves (Adrian, game 3) and missed catches (Ellsbury, game 2) right down to a player they own (John Lackey) being second out the gate when he probably is our third or fourth best pitcher. You can do all the analysis you want, make whatever excuses you like, but when it comes down to it, the team that played better won, and that team was Texas.

None of us wanted to see this. We wanted, nay expected our $170+ million squad to walk all over Texas, even though it was at their ballpark, and even though they have a good team in their own right. So there will be blood in Boston, there will be anger and vituperation clogging the airwaves and blogosphere, denunciations of Saltalamacchia and our hitless shortstops, and second-guessing of Theo's Evil Empire 2.0 strategy.

So it was disheartening, but there's plenty of cause for optimism. First, the Sox are heading next to Cleveland, who haven't sniffed the playoffs, let alone finished above .500, since 2007, then they start a 10-game stretch at home (albeit against such lightweights as the Yankees and Rays). Second, it's only three games in. Maybe the Sox haven't lost the first three games since 1996, but there's still another 159 to play. Third, we do have an excellent, $170 million team, that almost everyone in baseball's chattering classes picked to win the division. Fourth, Ortiz is looking better than in previous Aprils, with two homers in two games, right out of the gate.

It's way too soon to make any judgments about the season. Three games isn't enough of a sample to determine anything about 2011.

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